If you’ve ever had concerns about your oral health, you know it can be stressful to wonder if it’s time to call your dentist or not. There are times when it’s appropriate to call your dentist and even necessary. At other times, you can simply manage the issue at home. Here’s a cheat sheet for the most common symptoms and what to do to alleviate them.
Tooth pain and toothaches are usually caused by cavities, infected nerves, and fractured teeth. NSAIDs such as ibuprofen or naproxen can help relieve pain. If medications are needed to alleviate the pain, it’s important to contact your dentist as soon as possible to schedule an appointment. If you need to wait to see your dentist because it’s nighttime (and pain is often worse at night), it can be helpful to sleep propped up on a few pillows and to take an NSAID before bed. This can often help with throbbing. If you’re traveling and the pain is severe, contact your dentist and their office can prescribe antibiotics, which can ease an irreversibly damaged nerve until you can come in for an appointment.
Jaw pain can be caused by increased tension in your head and neck muscles or damage to the TMJ rather than your teeth. Occasional jaw pain can be managed with medications and compresses. The key is to mention occasional discomfort at your next check-up appointment so that your dentist can find the source of your pain. Jaw pain can be an indicator of a clenching or grinding problem. If the pain in your jaw is constant, it’s important to contact your dentist as soon as possible to get a diagnosis and start working on a treatment plan so permanent damage to your joint and teeth doesn’t occur. Patients with jaw pain should generally avoid chewing gum, hard foods, and opening their mouth too wide. Treatments for jaw pain include NSAIDs, muscle relaxer therapy, oral appliance fabrication, Botox therapy, dental restorative therapy, and sometimes surgery.
Sensitivity while eating or drinking things that have extreme temperatures can be an indication of gum (periodontal) issues or cavities. In this case, it’s important to see your dentist to find the source of the sensitivity. If the issue is cavities, restorative dentistry can alleviate the problem. If the sensitivity is gum-related, then there are some options like special toothpastes, cleanings, and grafting surgery. If you can’t see your dentist right away, stick to milder foods and start on a toothpaste such as Tom’s of Maine Rapid Relief (specially formulated to help sensitivity in 60 seconds) or Sensodyne.
Swelling (with or without pain) is a major concern and can lead to hospitalization and death. If you have any head or neck swelling, call your dentist as soon as possible. Swelling can grow quickly and cause issues with breathing. If you have issues with swallowing or breathing, bypass your dentist and go straight to your emergency room or call 911. Dental swellings can be treated with antibiotics, root canal therapy, extraction, and drainage procedures. Dental swelling is one of the more serious issues in dentistry and should not be taken lightly. This will not resolve on its own so contact your dentist as soon as you notice a change in the symmetry of your head and neck!
Schedule a Consultation
Maintaining optimal oral health is important and will contribute to your overall health! Our integrative approach will provide you everything you need to know to stay healthy and symptom-free for the long term. Make an appointment today with Dr. Chern and her team to get started on a better smile! You can get started by calling or filling out our online form.
By Dr. Inna Chern